The 45th parallel south lies about a 20-minute drive from my home on New Zealand’s South Island. That puts me right in the heart of the roaring 40s, a real perk for the early mariners from which the blustery namesake originated but not so much for the modern-day fly angler. It was mid-September, the start of spring on this side of the equator and an unreliable time weather-wise. The South Island had been inundated with wind and rain so fierce that it made my house shake, downed trees and power lines in the neighborhood, and blew out rivers across the region. Still, the news of a drop to level three COVID restrictions was a welcome change of fate. Level three meant we could venture beyond the grocery store or the pharmacy and could even get on planes to fly places again—domestically, at least—places like the Chatham Islands.
A territory of New Zealand situated about 500 miles off the east coast of the South Island, Chatham and Pitt are the largest of 12 odd islands and home to the 780 inhabitants who call themselves Chatham Islanders. The islands are prone to a level of exposure somewhere between what we experience in Aotearoa and what the leopard seals and penguins put up with on the treeless, subantarctic Campbell and Auckland islands to the south.
Weather charts for the week ahead were mostly covered in splotches of red and purple, with isobars so tight it was hard to distinguish one from the next. An Australian friend assured me via text that though the first couple days of our trip might feel like a tornado, the rest of the week should be fine. The day before we left, wind gusts on the South Island overturned two tractor trailers. And just to keep us on the edge of our seats, on the morning of departure my travel partner and the brains of the operation, Nick Reygaert, received an email warning that our flights would possibly be delayed or cancelled due to the high winds.